Andy Morton

Complex Cognac sales made simple with reindeer

By: Andy Morton - 8 November 2013 15:50

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There are not many things that will stop an interview quicker than asking the head of a Cognac house what his - or her - stock situation is. That's what I've learned, anyway, after talking to two of them recently.

Stocks are the Cognac industry's most closely-guarded secret, with executives more likely to divulge their online banking passwords than confess to how much eau de vie they hold. As Hine head François Le Grelle told me in Cannes last month: “If you have the (stock) profile then you can read the future of the company.”

All of which makes the purchase of a Cognac house an interesting prospect, as the buyer, initially, can only guess at what he's stumping up for. Once exclusivity agreements are reached, inventory information can be disclosed and, as Le Grelle says, there has to be some level of trust between the two parties, which means there is no nasty surprises when the warehouse doors are finally unlocked.

But still, it's a complex process.

The CEO of Altia Corp, which bought Larsen Cognac in September, tried to simplify the situation for me this week with a bit of home-spun wisdom from his native Finland. “In Lapland,” Antti Pankakoski said, “if you ask someone how many reindeer they have, they will reply, how much money do you have in the bank?”

So, bear that in mind when you're next at the bargaining point in western France.

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